I’ve traveled to some pretty amazing places around the world, but Lake Tahoe is by far one of my favorite in the United States. This massive California lake is beautiful in both the snowy winter and warm summer, but I love nothing more than planning a fun Lake Tahoe summer itinerary.
While I usually don’t travel during the summer in Seattle because of the gorgeous weather we have there, I’ll always make an exception to make a trip to Lake Tahoe in summer. In fact, I wasn’t even done with my first trip there when I already started planning a return visit back!
There are numerous things to do in Tahoe in the summer, and the entire area is an outdoor lover’s dream. As a hiking enthusiast, I get so excited to pick out new hikes when I come here, as there are tons to choose from.
This guide will show you how to get to Lake Tahoe, where to stay in Lake Tahoe, the best activities in Lake Tahoe in summer, and provide a sample 3 day Lake Tahoe summer itinerary to follow, which I think is just the right amount of time for a visit!
Tips for Visiting Lake Tahoe in Summer
Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip.
How to Get to Lake Tahoe
If you live on the West Coast, Tahoe is easy to get to. You’ll fly into the Reno Airport, which has flights from all around the country. From Seattle to Lake Tahoe, it’s less than 2 hours to fly into Reno (pretty quick!). JetBlue also has direct flights around the country that you can take to Reno including Long Beach and New York (JFK).
The Reno-Tahoe Airport is the closest major airport, and from there it’s about an hour and a half to get from Reno to Tahoe. I’ve rented a car when I’ve been there in the past and it was easy enough to drive around. When you visit for a Lake Tahoe summer itinerary, you don’t have to worry about snow on some of the roads that are high and twisty, as that’s all melted.
However, renting a car is not your only option. You can also book a ride with South Tahoe Airporter instead of worrying about the cost of a car. I’ve also personally used this and found it pretty convenient.
They’ll drop you off at the nearest hotel, and you can relax on the ride there. I was surprised at how walkable South Lake Tahoe was. I was able to walk most places for my summer activities at Lake Tahoe, and there’s a ferry available to get to other parts of the lake.
Summer in Lake Tahoe is a beautiful time to drive here from California destinations such as San Francisco. Whether you’re doing a LA to San Francisco road trip or a road trip on the west coast, you’ll want to add Tahoe to your itinerary.
The Best Time to Visit Lake Tahoe
The great thing about Lake Tahoe is you can visit it year-round. Winter in Lake Tahoe is a popular time to visit due to the massive amounts of snow the area gets, and I personally love going this time of year. I snowshoed for the first time ever when I visited, and the next day was on the mountain on my snowboard.
Spring and fall are also good times to visit, as you get decent weather but fewer tourists in the area. I recommend coming during this time if hiking is one of your main goals.
That said, it’s hard to beat Lake Tahoe in the summer with how beautiful the days are. You’ll love all the activities to do on the lake there are, from boating to jet skiing to hanging out on the beach. I love nothing more than going on an early morning hike followed by a day on the lake.
Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe
You have plenty of options to choose from during your stay in summer in Tahoe.
Here are a few options for hotels in Tahoe:
Basecamp Tahoe South – I love camping and being outdoors, and the Basecamp Hotel doesn’t make you give that up when you stay with them. Their rooms are outdoor-themed and have unique artwork all over the walls. Basecamp is my favorite hotel to stay at when I visit. (rates start at $119 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Hotel Azure – This of the best family retreats to stay in Lake Tahoe in summer. It’s great as a base to explore the surrounding region and take part in plenty of Lake Tahoe summer activities. (rates start at $167 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Stardust Lodge – This is an amazing getaway spot that’s just perfect when you’re looking for a place to stay in the summer in Lake Tahoe. From swimming pools to wonderfully furnished rooms, one of the greatest parts is that the beach is just a mere five-minute walk from the lodge. (rates start at $159 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
There are many other Lake Tahoe hotels to choose from as well.
If you prefer to stay in a vacation rental in Lake Tahoe, these are some great options.
- Pet-Friendly Cabin – This cozy cabin is situated on the south side of Lake Tahoe and has a hot tub. (rates start at $199 per night)
- Tahoe Chalet – You’ll enjoy a hot tub and huge multi-level decks at this four-bedroom home. (rates start at $160 per night)
- Charming Cabin – If you prefer to stay on the north end of the lake, you’ll love this three-bedroom cabin with a giant outdoor deck to enjoy. (rates start at $219 per night)
Best Things to Do in Lake Tahoe in Summer
Tahoe is amazing when it comes to outdoor activities. You can really do anything you can think of, from water skiing to boating to hiking during your 3 days in Lake Tahoe. Here are some of the best things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer.
Take a Hike on the Trails
There are so many Lake Tahoe hikes to do that you’ll love how many different choices you have. I recommend going first thing in the morning while it’s still cool and before everyone else on their Lake Tahoe summer vacation joins the trail.
Many of these hikes are both dog and kid-friendly, so it makes it one of the best activities at Lake Tahoe in summer. Just check the mileage and elevation gain before deciding if your family is physically capable of going on it.
There are many hikes in South Lake Tahoe to do as well as all around the lake. You can find everything from an easy two-mile hike to hikes that are challenging and take a significant portion of the day to do during your 3 days in Tahoe.
Ride the Heavenly Gondola
Being a part of nature is always enjoyable, but something you need to observe something from far up. This gondola ride does just that – it’s a 2.4-mile ride upwards that offers some stunning views of the beauty found in the region. Go here early in the day to enjoy one of the most scenic views during summer at Lake Tahoe.
There’s even an observation deck designed explicitly for photographs so that you won’t forget a single detail of your trip. Once you’re at the top, you can continue onto the many hiking trails in the region.
Camp in the Wilderness
Camping is one of the best Tahoe summer activities if you love sleeping under the stars. The fresh mountain air makes for a perfect camping trip. There are many beautiful areas to camp in, such as Eagle Point Campground, Fallen Leaf Lake Campground, and many others that are easily accessible camping sites. If you’re new to camping, you’ll want to read my article on camping 101 for beginners.
There’s always a sense of calm and tranquility when camping in the summer in Lake Tahoe. You’ll want to add this activity to your Lake Tahoe summer vacation plans.
Bike on the Trails
Lake Tahoe in summer means gorgeous weather, clear skies, and wonderful biking trails. Going there to specifically bike is not only fun but very rewarding, as there are a lot of trails designed specifically for biking that you can enjoy during your Lake Tahoe 3 day itinerary.
This is also one of the best family-friendly things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer. If you don’t own a bike, there are several bike rental shops near the trails, like the ones found near Squaw Valley so you can enjoy this summer activity at Lake Tahoe.
See the Lake From Above With Parasailing
Parasailing is one of those thrilling Tahoe summer activities that feels amazing and is absolutely unforgettable. This is one of the most adventurous things to do in Lake Tahoe in summer, so make sure to book a spot on one of the parasailing rides. They’re also one of the safest summer activities in Lake Tahoe to do, so it’d be a shame to skip out on them.
Admire the Wildflowers
There are many things to do in Tahoe, but natural beauty is a large part of the appeal. While visiting during winter in Lake Tahoe is scenic in itself, summer brings a different kind of beauty. No photograph or video can really capture how beautiful the area is.
One of the best ways to see this for yourself is to go looking for wildflowers. There are countless species of wildflowers, all of them lazily swaying in the fresh mountain breeze. For those who want to relax and forget about the worries of everyday life, this is one of the best low-key activities to add to your Lake Tahoe summer itinerary.
Stroll Around the Town
While there are practically an infinite amount of trails to go on and many summer activities at Lake Tahoe to do, you don’t have to be on the go the whole time. It’s fun just to take in the sights and see for yourself what exactly Lake Tahoe is all about.
You might stumble onto a tiny refreshing spring, or discover a waterfall you had no idea existed. At the very least, you’ll enjoy a tranquil and relaxing trip on the grounds surrounding the lake. Exploring is an activity that feeds the soul and reminds us why nature itself can be so beautiful.
Kayak on the Water
Nothing is better than feeling the breeze in your face and being surrounded by the beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe while kayaking. This is one of my favorite Lake Tahoe summer activities, especially because these waters rival my other favorite water in California which you can see on a Big Sur road trip.
Kayaking is one of the most popular activities, as it’s readily available in the summer in Lake Tahoe. There are plenty of tours and schools that guide you to help you have the best kayaking adventure possible.
Have a Sunset Dinner on the Water
Enjoying the afternoon air in a romantic and relaxing ambiance is one of the best parts of Boathouse on the Pier. While it’s not as affordable as some other places, the view more than makes up for it.
You can watch the people paddle by in kayaks, or just enjoy the sunset. These are experiences you won’t forget anytime soon, especially if you are picky when it comes to price on where to eat in Lake Tahoe.
Relax at the Beach
Similar to Huntington Beach, there are many Lake Tahoe beaches to visit, so here are a few to check out.
- Sand Harbor Beach – Often hailed as the most beautiful beach on Lake Tahoe, this beach is found on the Nevada side of the lake. It’s an easy beach to reach, and there are plenty of amenities, such as a snack bar, restrooms, seating areas, and picnic spots. The beach has an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle or $2 per bike.
- Lester Beach – This Lake Tahoe beach is found in D.L. Bliss Park and is a relaxing beach filled with sand. The beach has a swimming area, restrooms, and is surrounded by the state park itself. The fee to access the park is $10 per vehicle.
- Round Hills Pine Beach – If you want to see a different part of the lake, take the ferry from Lakeside Marina over to Round Hills Pine Beach. This is a very active beach, with everything from kayak rentals to paddle boarding rentals.
- Lakeside Marina – After all that hiking, you’ll want to relax. Walk over to Lakeside Marina to spend a day on the beach. They have a restaurant that serves meals and beverages for when you get hungry or thirsty.
Enjoy Margaritas on the Patio
When it’s warm in Tahoe, everyone’s out celebrating. Many restaurants have patios with live music to enjoy your meals on. For delicious margaritas and tacos, head to Azul Latin Kitchen. It’s the perfect way to end a day of busy Lake Tahoe summer activities – good food and sunshine.
Have a Barbecue on the Lake
For a barbeque by the lake, stop at Lakeside Beach House Restaurant. You’ll get some amazing views of the lake, and you’ll be treated by the breathtaking views of the sunset at night. The Santa Maria-style barbeque is one of their specialties and combined with one of their beers on tap.
Watch a Show at the Theater
For dinner and entertainment, check out The Loft. They have a comfy lounge to get drinks and appetizers in, and you can see a magic show in an intimate 100+ seat theater afterward.
A 3 Day Lake Tahoe Summer Itinerary
Here’s how to spend 3 days in Lake Tahoe in summer based on my favorite things to do on my past visits there.
Day 1 – Explore South Lake Tahoe
For your first day in town, check into your accommodation and then explore the town of South Lake Tahoe. Summer in Tahoe is the best time to stroll through the area, as you can take advantage of the numerous happy hours that are outdoors. If it’s early in the morning, grab coffee at a place like Revive Coffee & Wine. They have a cute outdoor area with benches and tables to sit at.
I suggest walking across the state line from California to Nevada, as it’s fun to say you walked to a new state. You can even take a picture with one foot in Nevada and one foot in California!
In the afternoon, you can take the gondola up Heavenly for some amazing views, which is one of the most scenic South Lake Tahoe summer activities. This will take you 2.5 miles up the mountain, where you can get photos at the observation deck or something to eat at the cafe.
When you’re done, head back into town and visit Azul Latin Kitchen for margaritas and dinner on the patio. I love ending my night here while people watching during a Lake Tahoe summer.
Day 2 – Visit North Lake Tahoe
For day two of your Lake Tahoe summer itinerary, you’ll head up to the north side of the lake. I suggest starting your day with one of many hikes in the area, such as the Historic Stateline Fire Lookout, Burton Creek State Park, or Tahoe East State Park. It can get hot during a Lake Tahoe summer, so starting as early as possible is best.
After that, you’ve probably worked up an appetite so stop at Old Post Office Cafe to have brunch at a former post office. Like most places in the area, they have an outdoor patio to enjoy the weather on.
Once you’re full, head to one of the many beaches on the lake to relax. The beaches here tend to be less crowded than the south end of the lake, which is why it can be nice to make the drive up here.
For the rest of the day, you can explore the area of Kings Beach. There’s plenty of shopping to do there as well as restaurants to choose from. If you’re in the mood for casual food like burgers and want a view of the lake, check out Jason’s Beachside Grille.
Day 3 – Head Out on the Lake
For the last of your 3 day Tahoe itinerary, you’ll be going on the lake instead of just looking at it. If you’re looking for some adventure and don’t mind getting wet, you can go parasailing over the water.
Renting a jet ski is another one of the fun things to do in Lake Tahoe in the summer, or you can water ski instead.
The wide-open waters allow for as intense or as relaxed water skiing sessions as you choose. There are numerous schools where you can start learning to water ski, such as Borges or Birkholm’s water ski schools.
If you want to experience the refreshing waters of Lake Tahoe without getting wet, then renting a boat might be ideal. Boating is one of the best summer activities in Lake Tahoe, as there’s nothing like being on clear, blue-green water.
You can also take the water taxi around the lake if you have extra time, as it’s a fun way to see different areas of Tahoe. This goes from four different parts in South Lake Tahoe and stops at Camp Richardson Marina, Round Hill Pines Marina, Lakeside Marina and Timber Cove Marina.
By now you may need to head back to the airport to catch your flight, but if not, grab lunch at Lakeside Beach House Restaurant. It’s a relaxing way to spend the end of your trip! If you still have time, you can head to the beach next to it and lounge on the shore.
You’ll love planning out your Lake Tahoe summer itinerary, as you have tons of activities to choose from. Whether you want to relax on the beach or head out on a hike, you’ll have a blast visiting Tahoe in the summer.